Marine Camp 2016: Wetland Explorers Sneak Peak

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Opportunities are abound in the Wetland Explorer camp for 2nd-5th graders. This camp explorers our local habitats and the animals that inhabit our incredible backyard. Campers will explore the life found in our local estuary, marshes, sloughs and mudflats. With Bair Island Ecological Reserve across the waterway from Marine Science Institute, campers will be inspired and curious about the vast array of wildlife this area offers. This shoreline habitat makes the Bay ecosystem healthier by providing homes for diverse animals that live only in this habitat, migratory birds that use the marsh as a pit-stop along their route, and by acting as a sponge by filtering pollutants and heavy metals from run-off.

During their week learning about the San Francisco Bay’s wetlands, Wetland Explorers will discover the animal life that calls our estuarine habitat home. This camp is geared toward California’s science standards taught during the school year, and is fun and interactive. Campers will touch animals and participate in hands-on activities, games, crafts and songs tailored toward the material.

All Wetland Explorer camps have:

  • 2 days at our site to study live animals from our aquarium and to engage in other science projects both indoors and outside
  • 2 field trips (reached by school bus) that feature different habitats
  • 1 day aboard our ship that includes fishing, studying plankton, sampling mud, and learning about nautical navigation
  • 2 staff plus a volunteer for every 15 campers
  • Flexible curriculum that engages multiple learning styles

The first field trip is to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco. Here campers will tour the only square-rigged ship left in the San Francisco Bay area, the Balclutha. Built in 1886, the Balclutha was a cargo ship that traveled around the world and now resides in San Francisco as a National Historic Landmark. Campers will learn sea shanties and learn how the San Francisco Bay became one of the world’s largest and most important seaports. Campers will also explore birdlife and invertebrates through activities with binoculars and on the docks at the aquatic park. Kelp crabs, giant bay anemones and nudibranchs as large as your hand will fascinate Wetland Explorers as they compare the invertebrate life in this North Bay area with that found on our docks in the South Bay.

The second field trip is to the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, which includes the only extensive wetland along the coast of the San Francisco peninsula. This area hosts extensive flat hiking trails where campers will utilize binoculars and bird field guides to spot some of the 60 species of birds that nest in the marsh (and 200 that fly through it!) and the importance of the marsh as a breakpoint along the Pacific Flyway. They will also use field guides to identify and differentiate between native and non-native plant species. We can even spot harbor seals as they surface, or leopard shark fins as they search along the bottom for food during low tide!

The Wetland Explorer camp is an excellent option for young scientists to learn about our nearby marine habitats. All Instructors have a degree in Marine Biology, Environmental Science, Education or a related field, and many have field research experience and will emphasize different aspects of the curriculum. Each instructor has their own unique teaching style so no two weeks of camp are the same.

Join us for this unique experience as campers explore the science that is practically in their backyard. Camps run Monday through Friday, 8:30am-3pm with extended care available until 5:30pm.


June 13-17

June 20-24

June 27-July 1

July 11-15

July 18-22

July 25-29




Creature Feature: Sevengill shark

7 gill

In keeping with our shark theme for the year, we are going to talk about another shark that we see in the San Francisco Bay Estuary: the Sevengill Shark, Notorynchus cepedianus.

Three guesses as to how this shark got its name! (You probably won’t need the last two)  Indeed, they have 7 gill slits on each side of their heads! Most chondrichthyes (that means fish with a skeleton made of cartilage) have only five gill slits per side. Sevengills have a beautiful silver grey colorization with speckles on the top half of their body. This species of shark can reach about 10 feet long.

Sevengills are open water sharks that will travel in and out of the bay. It is thought that they travel into the Bay for two main reasons, the first being to breed. Just like our local leopard sharks they, are ovoviviparous, meaning giving live birth. The estuary is an especially safe environment for young animals to get used to fending for themselves. The second reason sevengills are thought to venture into the Bay is to feed. They will eat just about anything that they can physically get into their mouth, including leopard sharks!

As we know, the teeth of sharks vary in shapes and sizes. One way to understand how shark teeth work is to think of them like a knife and a fork. Sevengill teeth compare particularly well with this analogy. Sharks sink their comb-shape bottom teeth into their prey (spearing it like a fork) and move their heads to that their upper teeth saw into the flesh like a knife, cutting their prey into easy to swallow chunks. Gross but fascinating

Sevengill sharks were, at one time, a highly exploited fishery.  In the 1930’s, Sevengills in the San Francisco Bay were overfished for the oils that can be rendered from their bodies. Today, they are still fished for human consumption, oils, and shark leather derived from their skin.  The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has the Sevengill listed as “Data Deficient,” meaning that there is not enough data collected from the regions in which they are found. In the Eastern Pacific, Sevengills are considered “Near Threatened.”

Edited by KC O’Shea
Photography: MSI Gallery

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